Sunday, June 10, 2007

Poetry--a big tent or an exclusive club?

Matt McGee, a Ventura County poet who edits FALLING STAR magazine, recently sent an editiorial to  And thanks to current Poetix editor Richard Modiano for printing the piece.

Here's the link to the complete article:

And here's a pertinent excerpt:

Poetry’s Bad Name

I ask every working poet one simple question. Would you like your books to sell at Borders, Barnes & Noble and on Amazon? If not, crawl back into your comfortable little poetry hole and stop bothering the rest of us. Poets, pay close mind to the story your work is telling and how clearly it is being told. We lost many sales at this year’s Festival by simply saying “we publish poetry.” Why?

 Because the majority of the reading public have been pushed away for 40 years by the obscurantism of charlatans who think that dropping a pile of unrelated words on a sheet of paper is good poetry—and then deride their readers for “not getting it.” This may be considered simplistic. So how has berating Joe Reader been helping your book sales, Bub? These people highjack our great medium. I work twice as hard to sell a magazine that should sell itself. We publish narrative works, things that tell a story and relate the human condition, the very base, original intent of language. The comment I recently received from a truck driver friend said it all. “I [expletive] hate poetry, but dude, I actually liked your magazine. It’s actually OK.” I’ll never get a better review than that. Unless the writer is using the form to tell a clear, interesting story, and until more magazines drop the Cooler-Than-Thou attitude and embrace Kerouac’s “simple idea of whipping up a little tale in no time,” poetry will continue to be rightfully rejected by the public.

I'm curious how much time Matt has spent in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, for there's a lot of Cooler-Tnan-Thou going on in these areas. 

Maybe Cooler-Than-Thou can be summarized as:

1. Some people want to be poets and/or in a circle of poets because they think they're aesthetically and morally superior to the "stupid masses" they decry.

2. Some people want to be poets to acquire the kind of make-and-break-and-ban power that they don't get to exercise in their day jobs.

I used to be dismissed for advocating that poets should try to reach out to the vast number of nonpoets.  And I sympathize enough with Matt's predicament to make an effort to read FALLING STAR in the future to see what kind of poetry lies within its pages.

No comments:

Post a Comment